WilTel navigates through router-less frame relay network

RICHMOND, Va. (April 17, 1995)-- When Sea-Land Service Inc., decided to upgrade the way it managed the traffic and cargo of its global fleet, WilTel, a wholly owned subsidiary of LDDS Communications, steered the shipping giant toward a frame relay solution smart enough to transmit data without routers. Sea-Land had been using private lines and multi-drop remote nodes connected to its IBM host mainframe through an IBM Front-End Processor (FEP).

The dedicated circuits not only needed extra equipment, they also consumed most of the FEP's ports. The result was high-cost, low-speed data transmission. While frame relay seemed like an obvious answer to Sea-Land's data communications needs, there was one problem: Sea-Land wanted to maintain the simplicity of its IBM native environment for data transmission, particularly on the remote side. WilTel Senior Systems Engineer Bobbie Smith designed a solution for Sea-Land's data communications needs with the help of Netlink, a Raleigh, N.C., firm that specializes in solving data communications dilemmas.

Netlink builds the OmniLinx 4000, a Frame Relay Access Node (FRAN) that can interface with IBM equipment through SNA, but which costs less than conventional routers. Since WilTel had not used the OmniLinx 4000 previously, four nodes were immediately installed for testing at WilTel's LAN lab in Tulsa. The results were impressive. For example, the turnaround time on one set of documents went from 45 minutes over private line to just 5 minutes with WilPak frame relay.

The OmniLinx 4000 also simplifies network management since it enables monitoring via industry-standard SNMP management platforms. "Data goes directly out of the Front-End Processor into the WilPak cloud, and then straight into our IBM control units, " explained John Arnett, Sea-Land's manager of tactical planning. Sea-Land's IBM FEP could now easily transmit data to and from 120 controllers through a single port. Single controllers (less than 32 users) communicate with the FEP using frame relay via SNA.

Multiple controllers plugged in to OmniLinx 4000 FRANs have access to the WilPak cloud through just one physical connection. In some cases, there are up to six IBM controllers communicating with each OmniLinx 4000 FRAN. Less than nine months after WilTel Senior Major Account Manager Ernie Ottinger recommended WilPak to Sea-Land, the international freight company had more than 50 nodes connected to the WilPak cloud. "We came up with the right equipment, the right package and the right price," said Ottinger.

With routerless frame relay, Sea-Land has been able to bypass costly dedicated circuits, as well as the extensive support equipment needed to keep them working. "We're saving more than 20 percent per month on our data transmission costs with WilPak," said John West, director of technology services at Sea-Land.

WilTel is a full-service telecommunications company that offers domestic and international data, voice and video products and services to carriers and large business customers. WilTel operates a nationwide digital fiber-optic network for its parent company, LDDS, which is one of the four largest U.S.-based long-distance carriers. The shares of LDDS Communications, Inc., trade on the NASDAQ Stock Market under the symbol LDDS. Sea-Land Service Inc., a unit of CSX Corporation, Richmond, Va., is a world leader in international intermodal freight transportation and related trade services.

Sea-Land operates more than 90 container ships and 190,000 containers in U.S. and foreign trade and serves more than 120 ports in 70 countries and territories around the world. Netlink, Inc., based in Raleigh, N.C., delivers performance-assured solutions for transporting SNA plus LAN traffic over frame relay and other intelligent networks. These solutions sustain the highest quality of service for mission-critical data, ensuring customers a painless transition to faster, more cost-effective communications technologies.